Posts Tagged ‘Reflections’

The One Regret

I got to do some amazing and beautiful things in my four years of AmeriCorps. I had the opportunity to serve my community, to respond to disasters when they happened. I got to remove debris from peoples yards, helping to begin the process of rebuilding communities ripped apart by the fury of nature. I got to serve alongside survivors and listen to their stories. I got to lead a team of young adults as they discovered how to change lives through service. I was able to travel across the country serving, digging fireline, building trails, removing hazard trees, and felling invasive species.

I got the opportunity to do all of this, and so much more. And in those four years of service, I only have a single regret.

It wasn’t something that I did, but rather something I didn’t do.

Each year, the St Louis Emergency Response Team (ERT) would make two trips up to Montana to serve alongside the USFS in and around the Beaverhead-Deerhead National Forest. It was a long three day drive as we made the journey out packed into several trucks loaded down with gear. It was on one of these long days driving across the stretch of interstate that I recently looked back upon and felt ashamed of something I didn’t do.

At the beginning of my second year with the St Louis ERT, which happened to be my fourth and last year serving with AmeriCorps, I found myself in one of the pick up trucks with four other teammates. One of them I knew after we served together the previous year and the other three were teammates that I had just met.

We were riding in Blue Hulk (yes, our trucks were named, along with our chainsaws and various other equipment) near the back of the procession of vehicles as we made our way through one of the Dakotas (I believe we were in South Dakota at the time) when we happened to pass a serious wreck. By the looks of it, a driver had crossed the median and oncoming lanes, went up the embankment underneath an overpass and wedged themselves underneath the bridge. Several other vehicles that were not traveling with our group had already pulled off to assist, but first responders had not arrived on the scene.

And there I was driving past it.

Even after two of my teammates asked if we should pull over, I didn’t stop.

And to this day, I regret that decision.

One of those teammates was an EMT. Two others were certified first responders. We had all taken first aid classes. We could have helped. But I didn’t. I kept on driving.

Several minutes later, we saw the ambulance speeding past in the opposite direction towards the wreckage. And that was the moment that I began to regret my decision.

After my time responding to the Joplin tornado three years earlier, I struggled with the thought that there was so much more I could have done. Due to policy, my team was pulled off that disaster response 13 days after we arrived. I struggled with knowing that people still needed our help. There was still something more that we could have done there. I was angry because instead of serving where the immediate need was, we found ourselves heading down to Houston, TX to help out at a youth camp.

At the time, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know how to express the frustration that consumed me. Yet, after several meetings with campus staff and teammates, I found myself at peace with it. While I was there, we had done everything we could to help. I had done my best, and there was nothing to be personally ashamed of.

And as I watched the ambulance fade into the mirror, and I saw the disappointment on the faces of my teammates, I knew that I could have done more. We could have done more. Made a difference.

It’s been over two years since those events on the interstate took place. And that moment stands out. Out of the four years that I served in AmeriCorps, that decision is the only one that I look back on and regret. Out of all my travels and adventures that make up my journey, that decision is still the only one I regret, because I didn’t do what my heart knew was the right thing to do.

Looking back on that moment seems like forever ago. How much has changed since then?

Why are you sharing these words? I hear you asking.

I’m sharing them because I have never put them into words. In the years of serving and writing, I never shared them, and I knew I had to. I have to live with that decision and it is a constant reminder that I never want to feel that way ever again.

I now work in realm of the first responder. I answer 911 phone calls every night that I work. I dispatch law enforcement, emergency medical, and fire personnel to calls day in and day out. And I never want to feel that shame of regret ever again. So I do the best that I can. I continue to serve to the best of my abilities.

And when I think about giving up, taking that easy path, I see that ambulance in the rear view window again. I take a breath. And I give it my all.

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The Question is, What Choice

In the newest movie of the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One (it’s okay, there will be no spoilers, I’m just gonna share one quote) the character Jyn Erso makes a powerful statement that rings throughout the movie and into the world we live in today. We heard parts of it in trailers and I wanted to share that quote with you:

What chance do we have? The question is, what choice? Run, hide, flee, scatter your forces! You give way to an enemy this evil with this much power, and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!

We live in a world that forces us to make choices. Do we stand to the side and let the world burn around us? Or do we do something about it?

For months, water protectors have taken a stand against the black snake. And while their struggle has brought hardships and pain, they have also gained victories as they protect the waters of our nation and put a face to the battle fought by indigenous people around the world. But their victory is far from over.

We, as a society and as a nation of individuals, have a choice: Do we stand with them and make our voices heard against our reliance on oil and for the protection of our environment or do we remain silent and allow our nation to fall prey to companies that care not for the survival of this earth, but for gain of power and money?

Our world is full of pain and hardships. Look at the suffering in Aleppo. Thousands of civilians are caught in the crossfire of rebel forces and a regime that cares not for their safety. Artillery shells and bombs fall on the city daily. They’ve been falling on it daily for years. And yet, we have done nothing about it.

We have a choice to make: Do we turn a blind eye and allow the bombs to continue to fall on the civilians trapped in Aleppo? Do we talk about how bad it is for them, but continue to do nothing? Or do we take a stand for peace?

South Sudan is on the brink of all-out civil war. The UN has stated that they are on the brink of Rwanda-like genocide. But there is still time of us to act. If we make a choice.

Here in our own country, we have a President Elect that uses social media platforms to bully and assault those who do not agree with him. We face a changing world, and come January, we will have another series of choices to make. Will we allow ourselves to be bullied into submission? Will we allow ourselves to give way to fear? Or will we turn our eyes from the facts before us and ignore what is happening? Or are we going to make a stand for what we believe in as a country and as individual citizens?

For those of us who know the story of Star Wars, we know the outcome of this story: A New Hope. Jyn Erso challenges us to take a stand, to refuse to hide or flee from the struggles we face each day. She never states that is will be easy, nor does she sugar-coat the consequences of both success or failure. We know what is to loose: our humanity.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
– Edmund Burke

A Letter From the Past

Two years ago, I started my journey with AmeriCorps St Louis Emergency Response Team. In that first week, we set out on Quest, an amazing team building experience that included late night navigation skills through the woods, the exploration of rock formations, attacks by angry yellow jackets, poison ivy, and getting to know some of the most amazing people that I had the privileged of serving with. As part of that experience, we were asked to write ourselves a letter that would be returned to us at the end of the year.

Well, a year has passed since I received, and promptly lost that letter.  I found it again while clearing out my locker at the office. It’s been two years since I wrote the following words, but I thought I should share them:

Hey you,

I’m not sure if you’ll remember me, or the person you once were, but I hope you have a chance to be still and re-read these words you once wrote. I hope this year is everything you expected it to be, both the good times, the trials, and the moments you came to find yourself stepping out into the unknown. I hope that you have embraced he friendship of those you knew as teammates and expanded your capacity to love.

I am a broken individual, torn between the events of the past and the expectations of the future, but I hope that you have come to terms with his fact of life and have made moves to heal who and what you were. I hope you have found the voice that was lost to fear, the unconditional love that was wrapped up in all your pain, and the freedom to forgive that is hidden in the darkness of your / our heart.

Know that bridges can be rebuilt and walls can crumble and fall to the power of love. You wrote it in ink on your wrist to remind you of all the times you failed and have chosen not to give up on yourself and on others. You wrote it to remind you of the darkest days that you have survived, and the days to come.

I just finished Quest, the adventure through the woods where you got lost in the darkness, but found yourself trusting those around me. Remember these lessons: You cant make it through life alone, it’s not worth the pain of never having loved. You will fail, but that does not make you a failure, it’s just part of the process to success. you will be lost, but as long as you know where you are supposed to be going, you will never be truly lost, perplexed, yes, but never lost.

I’ve known these people for just a couple of days and they are already family. I hope you have come to know who they truly are and embraced them with open arms no matter what. I hope you have also allowed yourself to be honest with yourself and with them, that they know you just as much as you know all your faults, failures, shortcomings, and strengths, as well as accepting the past which has made you who your are.

With that, I will leave you to return to your journey, but remember to reflect on the boy you once were and the man you’ve become.

God Bless and PEACE
STKerr

Sometimes, it is best to reflect on the words written and the words that we have yet to write. It’s definitely been an adventure, and I cant wait to see where this journey takes me next.